We were concerned that every place would be booked for the fall, as New York had taught us to fear being squeezed out, at all times.
But when we arrived at the preschool for Adath Jeshurun synagogue the principal, Melissa, gave us a personal tour, and it was such a friendly, warm, inviting place. The building was mostly empty as camp had drawn to a close and the school year had yet to begin. But we loved the feeling there, and, as a new Jewish family moving to Louisville, they said they would work hard to find a place for us. The clincher, for me, was that a bunny rabbit had made its warren in the childrens' playground. Anyplace that inviting seemed good to me.
Cut to almost three years later, and I am in one of AJ's auditoriums watching Stella Rae graduate from preschool. Our little two year old is now five years old, and so confident, tall for her age, and she had loved virtually every day of her schooling at AJ. We now live down the block from AJ, not across town, and are members of AJ's synagogue. There was also always room for us.
Randi was next to me, trying, and failing to not cry. Okay, maybe she wasn't trying all that hard.
Around us were families we had met and befriended through AJ, and Stella's own classmates, many of whom were also her friends, and whom we had also seen grow, over the years. Next year they will scatter to the winds as they attend their various kindergartens, all around town. But for now they remained together, a class.
As the graduation ceremony began singer/guitarist Mr. John Gage, one of Louisville's many accessible legends, performed a few songs, on his ancient, beaten up Martin guitar. "Get on board, little children, get on board," he sang, as all the children listened. To my left I saw teachers in their 60s mist up. When I grow up it would be nice to turn out a bit like John Gage, I think.
Then John sang one of his signature songs, the Garden Song. The lyrics are thus:
"Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow All it takes is a rake and a hoe And a piece of fertile ground Inch by inch, row by row Please bless these seeds I sow Please keep them safe below 'Till the rain comes tumbling down Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones We are made of dreams and bones Need a place to call my own 'Cause the time is close at hand Grain for grain, sun and rain Find my way in nature's chain Till my body and my brain Tell the music of the land"
When Stella was young she used to sing, unknowingly, "All it takes is a rake and a hoe, and a piece of turtle ground." So that's what Randi and I sang today, looking at one another, and smiling. Now when we sing that she, so ordered, gets angry at us. But we sing it anyway. Or at least I do.
After the music Stella was called up, and received her brightly colored diploma.
Okay, I thought, maybe there is a bit of shall we call it graduation inflation. Sometimes it does seem that every time Stella turns around someone is handing her an official-looking piece of paper with her name on it, but ... I don't care. Or didn't at Stella's graduation.
Then it was time for Stella's favorite part, and what she had looked forward to the most, cake.